Knitters do much more than turnout socks and sweaters and baby cardigans! They are also lowering their blood pressure, avoiding or reducing depression, and even slowing the onset of dementia according to research done by the organisation ‘Knit for Peace[i].  So many of their donors told of the benefits of knitting that they decided to investigate.  Their findings were so positive that ‘Knit for Peace’ concluded that if more people knitted, the NHS need spend less on blood pressure treatments, antidepressants and pain killers –  and that’s just for starters.  Knitting could be a cheap and effective way to fight a host of age -related conditions.  With the growing crisis in primary care and with GP services, perhaps now is the time to for GPs to prescribe knitting.  The report suggests that knitting be taught in schools.

Knitting is as relaxing as yoga, distracts from chronic pain (such as arthritis), boosts well-being, brings down blood pressure and helps keep the mind sharp.  It lowers heart rate by an average 11 bpm, and induces an enhanced state of calm.  It helps chronic pain by switching off alarm signals in the brain, because the focus is turned elsewhere. It also boasts the production of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter which lifts mood and dulls pain.

Knitting can also give a sense of purpose. You may remember the vengeful Madame Defarge in the Tale of Two Cities, whose opening chapters show her quietly knitting a scarf.  What she was really doing was knitting a list of enemies.

The story is much different for one of our residents. Sally (name changed) came into one of our homes expected to live only for a further few months.  She was completely bedridden and would tell friends and carers that she wanted to find a purpose in her life.  A friend suggested knitting, and brought in some wool and needles.  From that moment there was no stopping Sally!  She knitted blankets for children’s homes in Romania, ‘cakes’ and flowers for the homes ‘treasure boxes’, and poppies for the Poppy appeal. Visitors were ‘invited’ to buy a poppy, and no one could resist!   She received a letter of thanks for raising £70 for the British Legion, and photographs of the blankets being used in the children’s home in Romania.  She lived over a year longer than had been expected, and to the very end she had joy in her knitting, and a sense of achievement and purpose.

Often, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.  It takes hundreds of little stitches to make a garment or blanket, but brings joy to people who use them.  And it could be doing the knitter a whole heap of good, too!

[i] http://www.knitforpeace.org.uk/)

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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